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Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud

Noise Sensitivity and Mental Health

Noise sensitivity can be likened to nails on a blackboard. The constant buzz and whir of music, technology, the buzzing of Facebook notifications, ringing phones and loud conversations can be overwhelming.   This sensitivity to noise is known as hyperacusis, a condition that arises from a problem in the way the brain processes noise.

Sensory overload in the form of noise sensitivity can be a mental health trigger.  I experience it. Get tips to lessen effects of noise sensitivity.

When a sufferer comes to dread social settings due to the noise, it can become a mental health trigger. Sufferers may feel trapped with no escape, want some place quiet or feel disoriented, as though he or she can hear every noise or conversation in a room.  The effect is similar to being in an echo chamber.

Causes of Sensory Overload:

  • brain injury
  • airbag deployment
  • epilepsy
  • ear damage
  • TMJ

Neurological conditions such as migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder can also be associated with increased sensitivity to noise

Hearing loss does not necessarily reduce sensory overload.  The way in which the brain processes the sound does not mean that a person with hyperacusis, or sensitivity to sound in general, has better hearing. It’s just that he or she is more sensitive to certain sounds:  paper rustling, conversations, heating and air system sounds, etc.

Tips For Reducing Noise Sensitivity:

  • Incorporate some white noise into your surroundings  – run a fan, invest in a white noise machine, open a window or install a white noise app on your cell phone (white noise lite is one such app)
  • Wear noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds.
  • Try positioning yourself in another area of the room.
  • If you are wearing a hoodie, putting the hood up can lessen the stimulation.
  • Using a tactile tool, such as rubbing a smooth stone can provide enough of a distraction to facilitate calming.
  • Use post-it notes to cover sensors on auto-flushing toilets or automatic hand driers.
  • Visiting during non-peak times and seeking seating on the perimeter can help to reduce exposure to noise.

What do you do when the world becomes too loud?  We’d love to hear what has worked for you.

You can also connect with Paulissa Kipp on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and her website, Paulissakippisms.

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162 Responses to Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud

  1. Annemarie says:

    And when I finished sending that,the motorbikes came flying past my house,there is no mercy for me.
    I want to burn those bikes assault or kill the idiots on them.. they are making me sick,they are inconsiderate I mean who the hell goes up and down all day,up and down…go elsewhere on a track,not on a private dam street that would be quiet if wasn’t for you and the others..I can’t move again as too sick to move on my own again..I can’t do it..I have thought about living in my car but I dont think I could do it as too unwell

  2. Frank says:

    I used to wear ear muffs, when it gets too loud, or ear plugs. I may have to get ear muffs again, due to certain noises. I cant tell the world to be quiet, so I adjust and work it out on my own. The sensitivity can lead to anger at times, but with muffs and ear plugs its a bit better. If the noise keeps bothering me more and more, I will where earmuffs everywhere I go. Public places, restaurants, stores, and even at home. I prefer the earmuffs over the ear plugs.

  3. hyperacusis2016 says:

    Why do my noise neighbours spend money to annoy me with leaf blowers when a vacuum could do the job so much quicker. It is about as inconsiderate as motorcyclists who tune their exhausts to make more noise.

    No wonder mental illness is increasing in the UK.

  4. Quiettobe says:

    Interesting topic! Here are custom earplugs made from beeswax: http://www.earsai.com

  5. Quiettobe says:

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  6. Richard Craven says:

    Unnecessarily loud music in restaurants. You ask them to turn it down. They look at you as if you are a lunatic. They turn the music down about 1 notch. Two minutes later, they turn it right back up again. Your companions are put to the irksome necessity of constantly repeating themselves. Finally, you surrender to the inevitable, and finish your meal, not in silence of course, but without conversation. At the end of the meal, you pay the bill, grudgingly, and explain why you are not leaving a tip. Again, they look at you as if you are a lunatic. WHY does it have to be this way? Just turn the goddam music down. Going to restaurants used to be a social event. Now it’s just solipsism in company.

  7. CW says:

    Was Christmas shopping today at walmart, was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it in my life. As I was picking out gift cards, I could hear everything and everyone’s conversations and the air conditioning all shoes squeaking carts squeaking. Put all my stuff away and went outside because If I had to wait in the line to purchase my items I would of had a mental breakdown.

  8. Julie says:

    Right now I find dog barking to be the worst offender. To the point where I’m starting to not even like dogs anymore. The sounds pierce my brain and make me want to hurt people. Those with dogs really should try to be more considerate of others around them.

  9. CL says:

    What I do when the world gets too loud is to take my shoes off & put my feet on the ground to re-center myself and get in touch with nature & God.

  10. KDK says:

    Finding this page was a relief; I didn’t have noise sensitivities until recently and I didn’ t understand why I was so much more suseptible to them than others. In an effort to bring comfort to my fellow online, anonymous, noise-sensitive friends, I’d like to share observations from my own life.

    First, I live in the Atlanta area. As everyone knows, it’s a huge city. However, my family is lucky enough to have found a quiet neighborhood. We picked the house we did because one of the neighbors came out and greeted us when we initially went to see it.

    He was an older gentleman, clearly retired, and he and his wife were the original owners of their own 30-year-old home. We took the opportunity to get to know him and ask about how he liked the neighbors. Many were retired, some had newborns. All say hello when we see each other in our driveways (there are no garages). We haven’t had noise issues ever.

    I mention this so y’all know there is hope for a quiet place to live!

    Second, I understand how my noise sensitivity came into being in the first place and what triggers it. My family is aware of both and are supportive because they know I’m trying to work through it to slowly but surely make it better — if that’s possible. When we go out into situations where we know I may be triggered, we’re forewarned and forearmed. I handle it better when I prepare in advance, and they know to keep half an eye on me so if I need a quick escape (or to stick headphones in etc etc) and don’t realize or can’t vocalize it, they can facilitate it.

    I mention this because when trying to handle something like this, we need those closest to us to support us even they don’t understand it. I had to use those exact words with some of my family to get them onboard; when I did, it helped them realize that I needed them to be there for me. I also make sure to thank them when they help me through rough times — I imagine it’s just as difficult for them to support us going through a difficulty that is completely alien to them. Either way, support groups are key! If they are willing to be patient and help you through this hard time, what kind of person does that make them? In the same breath, I recommend file a note away to help them likewise in the future!

    Finally, I had to take the time to figure out my triggers. This is simple for some and more difficult for others. I’ll go into some more of my own personal details so you can see how I figured my own out. Suffice to say: (1) everyone is different so this may or may not work for you, but (2) nobody knows you better than the person who’s lived in your skin for your whole life (YOU), so I’m sure you can cherry pick what works for you and develop it to work for you.

    In order to identify my triggers, I made a mental list of everywhere I had panic attacks (or would have had one had my support person not intervened). For me, a panic attack manifests when I hit my breaking point and can’t handle any more and the only solution I have is to panic attack while I excuse myself from that environment: inside malls (multiple times), at the grocery, and in restaurants.

    I also made a list of places I didn’t have difficulties. I personally couldn’t have made this list on my own. However, one of my support structure mentioned one day that they were surprised I didn’t have any panic attacks at a certain location: Disney World. So this list consisted of one place.

    Well, I could tell you at first glance it wasn’t crowds that specifically bothered me. After all, Disney World is always filled with a ton of people. However, there was a key difference between the places in each list. That helped me figure out that sounds quickly overwhelm me while I’m in crowds — when I’m indoors.

    Why? Well, my theory is because the sound is contained. The sound waves bounce off the walls and ceiling and echo or amplify instead of continuously heading off in whatever direction they started in. That theory aside, the most important part was that I have a general idea for what triggers me. As I intentionally put myself into trigger situations (with my support system in place), I can practice getting better at my responses and possibly, hopefully narrow my triggers to specifics. Eventually I hope my sensitivities go away. Even if they don’t, though, I love life and I don’t want anyone or anything keeping me from experiencing as much of it as possible. That includes my own ears!

    Now, my list consisted of places but not everyone’s will. I’d imagine some people will have a list sounds. Do they occur at a specific place or time? Do you have just one trigger, like me? If you have more than one, think of them as different problems. You may be able to use the same strategy to deal with each one, but maybe each one needs a unique approach. With patience and practice, you’ll figure it out. Remember how many lightbulbs Edison broke before he found the perfect one!

    *BONUS* My husband learned a trick that really helps me get through panicky times — the psych who taught his sociology class mentioned it while they were studying social disorders. He gently massages the palm of my hand and my wrist. There are a lot of nerve endings there that tense up under stress. When he does that, I know he’s doing it because he sees I’m starting to panic. So, mentally I switch gears. Instead of focusing on my thoughts or the sounds, I focus on the feeling. I focus on where I am (physically) and the fun I was having before I started panicing. Slowly the panic ebbs away. I imagine the stone works on a similar basis. With that theory in mind, I think I’ll take my time and find a stone I like and find interesting. Maybe a crystal with jagged edges I can “explore” with my sense of touch. Perhaps I’ll get more than one interesting rock so I don’t get bored of any one.

    Anyway, back to the tip! Anyone from your support group can do this as long as you don’t mind them “holding” your hand. Or, now that I think about it, for those with “space bubbles” larger than most, like me, or at work or other non-hand holding-friendly places and times, you could give an interesting stone to anyone in your support group. If they see your triggered, they could hand you that stone as way to nonverbally support you.

    Hope this stuff helps y’all!

  11. L. Smith says:

    I feel utterly without support in my recent new town of population 100. You would think I’d have some peace and quiet in this rural little town. My neighbor nearly a block away plays loud rock music on many days, from about noon to 6pm. I can hear it in my home, doors and windows closed. People have put up with it for years because he’s also a bad dude who has been arrested for assault. I finally got the DA to open a case of disorderly conduct but the deputy on the case seems to be trying to discredit me or get to drop my case, I guess just too much trouble for him. Like other writers, sometimes I wish the offender would get arrested or something. What I do to cope is wear headphones, with little affect, take a walk, leave town, turn on white noise, turn on my stereo, write in my journal, call a friend. I have talked to the neighbor a few times but they just got defensive and mad.

  12. Ela says:

    Oh god, loud people are driving me crazy. I hate unexpected noisy sounds, for example when someone starts to laugh very noisy I need to bite my lips not to scream…when my roomate blows his nose so loud when I don´t expect it! He´s like an elephant!!! I know it sounds funny, but in that moment I want to punch him. And I´m sorry because I know it´s not his fault and the problem is mine (I´m epileptic so I guess it´s beacuse of that). I can´t walk around with earplugs all the time, can I? Has anyone an idea what to do about that? Thanks a lot for any kind of advice …. :(

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